Jane Devin

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Jane’s Guide to Proper Cussing

April 11th, 2008 · 17 Comments

Dear Elisabeth,

Somehow, in all those sterling lessons I imparted as a parent, I left out this highly crucial one regarding cussing etiquette. As I watched you, my beautiful Venus daughter, trying to cuss the other day — and doing it all wrong — I realized I had failed to teach you even the rudimentary basics of proper cussing. Shame on me. What the hell was I thinking? Every well-versed and emotionally generous woman should be able to employ these colorful words properly.

Let’s start with hell which, as you may have noted above, should always be spoken as if it’s italicized. Otherwise, what’s the point? The fiery meaning of hell is subdued when it is said without the proper attending passion. What’s a hell without fire? North Dakota. So if you’re not going to give this devilish word its due, you might as well say just say Fargo for all the feeling your improper usage will evoke.

Feel the difference?

The word “fuck”, unfortunately, has entered the mainstream. It’s unfortunate not because it’s not a useful (and even occasionally beautiful word) but because its use among people who are not really cool enough to say it has diminished its rebellious nature. Face it — we don’t want to hear teens, grandpa, or Bill Gates say fuck. Never mind that they’ve done “it” — the word is rarely about “it” anymore — and it’s certainly not about wearing hideous jeans, or hording coupons, or even dominating a world market.

The word “fuck” is about being ethically outraged, or full of righteous passion, anger, or emotion. Losing a video game, or not getting to use an expired .20 off coupon, or even being found guilty of monopolizing a market, hardly qualifies as ethically outrageous or righteously passionate, angry or emotional. Uncool people, of course, don’t know these things, so they totally fuck up a perfectly good word, and sound like complete idiots when they do.

Now that I’ve shared rule #1 of the word “fuck” — that you should be cool enough and passionate enough to use it properly — let’s move on to rule #2. It’s fucking. Not fuckin’. The full ing is crucial to proper usage, which is? Let’s review — to express a state of being ethically outraged, or full of righteous passion, anger, or emotion. Without the “ing” this otherwise strong word loses its muscle and becomes little more than weak, semi-literate slang.

One word that should never precede the word “fucker” is mother. Never. It is just not cool. (However, if the pre-fix comes from outside the family, such as “ex-lover fucker”, than this usage is entirely appropriate).

Oh no, here it comes. . .start cringing now, it’s the oft-despised, much maligned “C” word. Like the infamous “N” word (or the less infamous “D” and “Fa” words) its usage should belong exclusively to those who were once the targets of the name-callers, in this case women. Women should own the “C” word with all due authority and do with it what they will. Most will choose to use it sparingly, some will choose to integrate it into safe and sane playing, and others will shriek loudly and cover their ears at the mere mention of the word. It’s best to use this powerful word only in select, known company.

Shit. Please don’t make a vulgar habit out of saying it — any more than once or twice a day usage goes beyond earthy good humor to redneck overkill. The only cool redneck woman is in a song, and she — according to Gretchen Wilson — ain’t no high class broad. No one wants to be the pride of Dublin, TX anyway, unless they’re from Dublin and have no plans to go anywhere else in life.

Bitch. Now here’s a word that women have tried to own with pride. Meredith Brooks wrote a lovely, popular song about it, and there’s even a feminist magazine that has the word on its masthead, but the co-opting of this verbal complement to “bastard”, and especially its duality of use as a squawking, backbiting verb — “he had the nerve to bitch about it” — has left women as the renters, rather than the true owners of their favorite cuss word.

I say if you can’t really own it, give it away to those in need. Namely, men. Not just our lovely, needy gay male friends, but men in general need this word. “Bastard”, as it were, is underused and understated, and doesn’t really cover the full spectrum of male diva behavior — such as starting a war with a third world country in order to make astronomical profits for your friends, or lying to millions of unsuspecting consumers about the safety of certain products, or looting hundreds of millions of dollars from investors in order to live a lavish, if unlawful, lifestyle. Yes, Bush and Cheney are bitches. Slick lobbyists and their predominately male political allies are bitches. Dennis Kozlowski is a bitch.

See? We can give the word “bitch” away, and let them keep “bastard” while we’re at it, and suffer no ill effect. Let’s choose, instead, to own a word like Goddess, which has no negative connotations, and which truly reflects the spiritual and aesthetic beauty of women. Like you.

Love Always,


Tags: Culture · Human Interest · Other Writings · Sex/Sexuality

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 linda woods // Apr 11, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    That was really fucking good.

  • 2 jimi // Apr 11, 2008 at 9:54 pm


  • 3 Paige // Apr 11, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    Why do I feel like I just saw a version of the Vagina Monologues?

    Have a fucking great night, Jane!

  • 4 LBJ // Apr 12, 2008 at 12:24 am

    Thank you for the much needed laugh tonight. This was very funny, and I nearly spit tea into my keyboard at the second to last paragraph.

  • 5 dee // Apr 12, 2008 at 2:57 am

    Are you fucking kidding me? That was hilarious!
    Dam I wish I was taught how to cuss properly.. what the hell was my mother thinking?

    Thanks Jane … big smiles!

  • 6 freida // Apr 12, 2008 at 3:15 am

    I love the ‘context’ here, I think.

    Need to go use ‘those word tools!’

    I’ll never be a good cusser.

    When I use ‘those’ words, I really, usually mean them.

    And I try so hard not to get pissed off, LOL.

  • 7 linda2u // Apr 12, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Entertaining & laugh-out -loud funny!
    Here’s 2 U goddess!!!

  • 8 Ann Parker // Apr 12, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    I was taught not to cuss. I couldn’t cuss for years. Then one day I cussed. When I finally said FUCK it changed my life, for the better. But then, having felt free to say it, I really didn’t need to say it much, just once in a while. You are right. We can let the Bastard Brothers in Washington keep that word.

  • 9 Doris Rose MacBean // Apr 13, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Thanks for the primer and I am going to forward it to my lovely niece.

  • 10 rose // Apr 14, 2008 at 6:54 am

    ann, i was the same! i didn’t start cussing until i was in my thirties LOL.

  • 11 Donna Faber // Apr 14, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Hi Jane … just so you know, my grandmother claimed the word “shit” as hers long before it was cool. She is in a rest home, bedridden and for the most part suffering from dementia, and still considers it hers. You might want to check with her before using it again. She’s a tough old broad.


    Great post … D~

  • 12 VIVIAN // Apr 15, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    DUH, what is the ‘c’ word.? The others i know and have eercised my right to use them, but this one i do not know

    Um…rhymes with runt, Vivian. :-) Jane

  • 13 freida // Apr 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Sounds like can’t with an ‘English Accent.’
    Kinda proper like, LOL.

  • 14 Mish // Apr 16, 2008 at 8:43 am

    I dont like the C word. My husband and friends know if I use it Im beyond a lil’ angry. Its reserved for a few special people these days. C to maddning C………

  • 15 Karissa // Apr 19, 2008 at 9:19 am

    I can’t fucking believe this! I just made my pot of coffee and raced to sit in front of my computer to read the beginning of your journey that you said you were going to start to diary here; only to learn that you are going to update on Sundays!

    Crap (the new replacement for use of the word ‘fuck’ in the office), I can’t believe I forgot. It must be because I’m into the troughs of menopause and I’ve read that you start to forget things! What the hell am I going to do until tomorrow now?

    –Hi Jane – so nice to read your work. I haven’t been around much but I will be checking in on a regular basis to try and catch up on your site….. if I remember!

    But you are right about the use of the word fuck. When I was in my late teens, early 20’s, I had (still do) a cousin who misused the word fuck terribly. Every sentence had the word fuck in it about six times. I finally got tired of hearing him misuse and abuse it’s proper place in our society and wound up giving him a long lecture telling him that there were thousands of words in the English language that he could use to express himself instead of using the “F” word like he did. He never used Fuck again;)


  • 16 Karissa // Apr 19, 2008 at 9:28 am

    p.s. Since I live in the Northeast we tend to make R’s and G’s more silent.

    One day not too long ago I used the word ‘fuckin’ around my bf (not towards him, but used it in his presence) and he was very quick to correct me. He said that if I am going to use such a powerful word, I needed to give it justice and pronounce the ‘g’ in it or it loses its powerful meaning.

    That was so fucking true! It even feels more glorious when I make sure I give that ‘g’ some life to it.


  • 17 David // May 5, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Love it! Really cool!
    I’ve gotta teach that to my kids some time too :D

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